CHARLESTON – Gary Johnson has had interim removed from his job title.
The state Supreme Court of Appeals voted unanimously March 6 to make Johnson, a former circuit judge, the permanent Administrative Director of West Virginia Courts, Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II announced.
Johnson became interim Administrative Director on Jan. 4 when the Justices removed Steve Canterbury from the position.
“Judge Johnson has worked nonstop during the past two months to improve our administrative office, and I am excited to announce that the Supreme Court has named him our permanent Administrative Director,” Loughry said in a statement. “His work ethic is incredible, and his unique qualifications, including his 24 years as a circuit judge, have been invaluable.
“I am particularly impressed with his honesty, integrity, and his understanding of the importance of accountability and transparency of the judicial branch of government.”
Johnson said he's thankful to have the job permanently.
“I have enjoyed working with the Justices and Court staff the last two months, and I am honored the Court has decided to make my position permanent," he said. "I am thankful for the confidence the Court has placed in me. I have found my work here to be both challenging and fulfilling. I look forward to finishing the work we have started.”
For 24 years, Johnson served on the bench in the Nicholas County. He also served as chairman of the West Virginia Court Improvement Program Oversight Board from 2001 until last month.
In 1999 he was declared an “Angel in Adoption" by the United States Congress and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. In 2009 he received the Alliance for Children’s West Virginia Leader for Children Award; the Commissioner's Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families; and a Purple Ribbon Award from the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. He also is a recipient of the 1998 Protection of Children Award from the Nicholas County Family Resource Network and Nicholas/Webster Foster Parent Association, the 2008 Extra Mile Award from the West Virginia Children’s Justice Task Force, and the 2013 Steward of Unity Award from the West Virginia Child Care Association.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from West Virginia University before working as the state's first flood insurance coordinator. After a year with Region Four Planning and Development Council, Johnson entered law school and earned a law degree from West Virginia University College of Law in 1980.
As a private attorney, he served as Richwood's municipal judge and was elected to a four-year term as Nicholas County prosecutor in 1985. He was elected Circuit Judge in 1992 and served in that position until 2016, when he lost in the state's first non-partisan judicial election to Stephen Callaghan.
Last month, Callaghan was suspended from his new job for two years for violating the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct and the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. Those relate to statements contained in a campaign-issued flyer implying Johnson was partying at the White House with President Barack Obama. The flyer also stated that while Johnson was present at a White House event, Nicholas County was losing hundreds of jobs. Callaghan defeated Johnson by 220 votes.
A lifelong resident of Nicholas County, Johnson and his wife Susan live in Richwood, where they raised five children.